African-American women leaders gathered on Capitol Hill Tuesday in defense of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim congresswomen in history and the first member of Congress to wear a hijab. Omar has been the target of numerous right-wing attacks since taking office, including by President Donald Trump himself. Omar says death threats against her have spiked in number since President Trump tweeted a video juxtaposing her image with footage of the 9/11 attacks. Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, civil rights icon Angela Davis and others addressed the crowd Tuesday to urge Congress to censure President Trump—to whom they referred simply as the “occupant of the White House”—for his attacks on Omar and to send a message to both political parties: “Hands off Ilhan Omar!”
More from this Interview
- Part 1: Ilhan Omar Speaks Out Against U.S. Sanctions & Bipartisan Support for Regime Change in Venezuela
- Part 2: Hands Off Ilhan Omar: Angela Davis & Black Women Leaders Defend Congresswoman from Right-Wing Attacks
- Part 3: “It Is About Time”: Rep. Ilhan Omar on Supporting Impeachment of Trump & Medicare for All
- Part 4: Ilhan Omar’s Full Speech: Trump’s Attacks on Me Target Women, People of Color & Immigrants Everywhere
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. African-American women leaders gathered on Capitol Hill Tuesday in defense of Congressmember Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim congresswomen in history, the first member of Congress to wear a hijab. Omar has been the target of numerous right-wing attacks since taking office, including by President Donald Trump himself. Omar says death threats against her have spiked in number since President Trump tweeted a video juxtaposing her image with footage of the 9/11 attacks. Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, civil rights icon Angela Davis and others addressed the crowd Tuesday to urge Congress to censure President Trump—who they referred to simply as “the occupant of the White House”—for his attacks on Omar and to send a message to both political parties: “Hands off Ilhan Omar!” This is Congressmember Ayanna Pressley.
REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY: I had to come here to lend my voice and solidarity. Yeah, I happen to be a congresswoman, but before all the commas and titles, I’m a black woman. And Ilhan is my sister. … I am changing the things I can no longer accept. And from R. Kelly to Donald Trump, what we can no longer accept is the silencing of black women! This is a reckoning. This is us assuming our rightful place as the table shakers, as the truth tellers, as the justice seekers, as the preservers of democracy. We are demanding that you trust black women, that you see black women, that you believe black women and honor us for the role that we have played as healers and preservers of this democracy and this nation!
THENJIWE McHARRIS: Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: You know, I grew up in the most beautiful, blackest city in the country, in the city of Detroit. And many—and many of my teachers, my mothers on the block, all of them accepted me as a Palestinian woman, as a woman that understands through the lens of my ancestors, through the lens of my living grandmother in the West Bank, in the Occupied Territories of Philistine. They knew what I meant when I talked about the pain of oppression or the pain of feeling less than.
And I remember Ilhan saying that to me once, like, “You know, Rashida, I was born in a community where I was the majority, but you were born in a country where you felt like you were second-class immediately when you were born, right?” And this is a woman that speaks that way, that is raw, that is real. And I cannot stand that they continue to police her, they continue to police our words, they continue to police our positions. But I say hands off. Hands off of the women of color that serve in the United States Congress. Not only—not only do we look differently, but we serve and we fight differently. And it also means that we talk differently. It’s also that we are allowed to be angry in this country.
THENJIWE McHARRIS: Angela Davis.
ANGELA DAVIS: It is about time that we stepped up to defend those who represent our political vision on the front lines of struggle. I feel particularly motivated to join this amazing group, because the attack against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, while it is clearly directed at her as an individual, is also designed to dissuade all of us from speaking out on issues that are considered controversial. The attacks on her emanating from the occupant’s Twitter feed—that’s right, the occupant’s Twitter feed—and the numerous threats of assassination from white nationalists and their supporters are a way of sending messages to other black women, to all who hold radical and progressive political views, that they, too, can be made into targets of vitriolic, violent racism: “Be quiet, or you will suffer the fate of Ilhan Omar.” That is the message. But we do not heed that message. We refuse to be quiet.
AMY GOODMAN: Human rights leader, scholar, professor Angela Davis, speaking in defense of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who has repeatedly been accused of being anti-Semitic for criticizing the power of AIPAC and the Israeli lobby in Washington and questioning U.S.-Israeli relations. Despite the threats, she has refused to be silent and has continued to speak out against racism, against Islamophobia, against anti-Semitism and right-wing violence.
Ilhan Omar, I wanted to ask you about, well, one of the many comments was Traci Backmon, Reverend Blackmon, saying that Islamophobia and anti-Semitism grow from the same tree, that they are different branches of the same hate. Can you talk about this?
REP. ILHAN OMAR: Yeah. I mean, I referenced it as being of this—you know, the two sides of the same bigoted coin. We know that many of the people who are targeting the Jewish community for anti-Semitism are also targeting the Muslim community in Islamophobia. And so, we have to collectively work together to uplift our voices and say no to hate. We know that both of our communities here in the United States are targeted by white supremacists, and we know that the conservatives sort of are doing everything that they can to distance themselves, to disinform the public about the monsters that they helped feed, that are now causing devastation in mosques and in synagogues. And if we are not collectively wising up to that reality, then we will suffer the pain of it.
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump recently said, in speaking to local media, talking about you, “She is somebody that doesn’t really understand life, real life. … She’s got a way about her that’s very, very bad for our country.” If you can respond to this and tell us about your real life, where you were born—
REP. ILHAN OMAR: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —what you’ve survived?
REP. ILHAN OMAR: Yeah. I mean, unlike the president, I don’t adhere to the belief that we should be furthering xenophobia in this country. This is my country. There is no his America. This is our America. We collectively live in this country. And I have as much of a right to it as he does and anyone else. So, that’s one.
Second, let me just say this: For this president, who really was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, who rode the backs of marginalized people to make his money, to talk to me, as someone who survived war, lived in a refugee camp, learned English in six months, worked almost every single job that you can imagine, from cleaning offices to being a cashier to working my way up to now being a member of Congress, with only two decades of being in this country, to talk to me about real life, it really tells you how demented he sounds and how much he’s really willing to go in furthering the demonization and the silencing of minority communities, who understand that we have the power as people to stand up to him, to fight for the America we know we deserve, and to practice the kind of political joy that allows for all of us to participate and fight for prosperity, not for the few, but for the many.